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Jordan Ottesen Talks The Couch Series Reboot

The Couch Series, a Provo Music staple, is now in new hands.

Earlier this year, The Couch Series creators Eden Wen and Nicolle Okoren announced that they were placing their beloved local talent series on “indefinite hiatus.” On their official Facebook page, they said:

“As you most likely noticed, we haven’t put up a video in a long while… we simply haven’t the time to put into the series anymore. We both have full-time jobs and are actually looking to move out of Utah in our futures (be it near or far). So, we are pulling a Blink-182 and saying that we will be on an indefinite hiatus. (But what does that mean?)

That means The Couch Series could possibly come back. Would Nicolle and I come back with it? Probably not. However, if The Couch Series could begin with two people with passions for music, that means it could continue with other people with passions for creativity.” [1]

Good news, folks. The Couch Series is returning, this time under the watchful eye of local musician Jordan Ottesen and his wife, Laurelin Ottesen. We got to speak with Jordan about the future of the series. Read on to get the details.

First off, how has music influenced you in your life? When did you start performing, and how has your experience with the music scene in Provo been?

Music has been an intricate part of life as far back as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories of music are listening to Journey with my Dad, finding the Jazz station and loving it, and fast-forwarding the VCR tape when the song parts came on in Disney movies.

[Laughs] Seriously?!

I’ve since changed my ways! Regardless, listening to music and performing it has always been a great outlet, kind of a way to escape some of the stresses and struggles that naturally come in life.

My mom started me on piano lessons when I was 10. As I grew up, I went through the process of learning Chopin, Mozart, all that great stuff. Over time, I started writing my own tunes, absolutely loving jazz band in Jr. High and High School, and eventually starting my own music projects.

Music is also one of the first things my (now) wife and I connected on. When I first met her, I was amazed at how dialed in she was with music, and how we had similar tastes in music. Beyond that we connected on so many other levels, she was and is the most amazing person I’ve ever met, and I knew I had to somehow get her to like me. I wrote her a tune on piano, she felt the feels, we dated, we got engaged, we got married, and the rest is history. So I guess you could say music also played an intricate role in finding my wife… [Laughs]

Anywhos, my experience with music in Provo has been absolutely amazing. There are so many amazing bands and musicians in this little random town in Utah. It’s kind of an interesting hub due to BYU and the other colleges in the area, bringing in folks from all over the country – and even world – whose culture has a lot of music involved. From what I’ve seen, it’s made for a rather competitive music scene, causing bands to just keep getting better and better, and that really makes us excited to see what kind of music can come out of Provo.

So what music projects are you working on currently?

To be completely blunt, this is a question for a different setting… Honestly, I don’t want to draw any attention away from The Couch Series. I really want the focus to be on the other musicians of Provo, not myself. 

Well said. That’s fantastic. So, if we were to log on to your Spotify account or open up iTunes on your computer what would we find?

An “incorrect password” message I hope! [Laughs] So my wife and I actually started this collaborative playlist idea together from the time we got married. Kinda like our own version of a never-ending playlist. Each month we create a new playlist with all of the new music we find. So you’d find playlists titled “May 2015”, “June 2015”, “July 2015” and so on with music my wife and I have kicked back and forth with each other. We’re always looking for new tunes. With that in mind, there isn’t really a common theme in the genres I’ve got in Spotify. We’ve got tunes anywhere from eclectic folk like The Oh Hellos, to tropical vibes like Vacationer, to indie pop like Saint Motel. I guess the best way to describe it would be the way we eat out. We enjoy Mexican as much as Italian as much as Thai as much as straight up Burgers as much as we like local whole-in-the-wall places (to rope in the “local music” playlist we’ve got too).

There’s also a side project I’ve started called “The Daily Ear Confectionery.” Just a daily dose of new music, drawing tunes from some of my favorite artists. The goal is to give you something new to add to your playlists, as well as provide something different to catch on your Facebook newsfeed. 

Very cool. So, The Couch Series was running under the direction of Eden Wen and Nicolle Okoren from November 2013 until they announced an indefinite hiatus on July 5, 2015. How did you get in contact with them? How did you end up taking over the reins for the show?

My wife and I were wanting to start up a similar project, especially when we found out that The Couch Series was on the indefinite hiatus. We really liked the series and decided we didn’t want to create something new to compete with it, we really just wanted to continue the legacy. So we reached out to Eden and Nicolle via facebook and email, and just asked if we could pick the series back up. We had Eden over for lunch, had a sort of informal get-to-know-you chat with her, and she was all for us continuing The Couch Series. We share a passion for music, and that was that. Eden’s also been pretty heavily involved in getting the series back up and running, and has helped with the first three bands we’ve recorded, kind of acting as a mentor.

What’s it like inheriting a brand like that? What perks come with brand inheritance, and what challenges come with it?

One of the first things we did with Eden was look through The Couch Series’ email inbox, and it was amazing to me to see how much traffic comes through this project. Many bands are really excited to play on the couch and it’s neat to be able to have a “brand” that brings musicians together. So honestly the biggest perk that comes with this inheritance is the already existing network we’ve just stepped into. It’s just a stellar opportunity to meet new musicians and be a channel through which they can get their music to new audiences.

Challenges. Honestly there haven’t really been too many. Things have really worked out well for us. We’ve got a great crew together, have already had some amazing bands on the couch, Eden’s been super supportive and has been showing us the ropes, it’s just been a great ride so far. I guess we’ll just have to see what challenges the future brings.

Who are your crew members?

As of right now, we’ve got three folks: my wife and me, and one camera man (Josh Chapel) who will be roping in some of his colleagues for editing and filming as the series progresses. And of course we’ve had Eden mentoring us as it starts up.

What can we expect from the new Couch Series? What will change? What will stay the same?

You can expect a showcase of amazingly talented local musicians. We’ll still be filming live acoustic sets on a couch, but you’ll notice the couch is a bit different. Mainly that it’s bigger… and red. We’ll also be showcasing new bands, so in that sense the series is really just a continuation of the original Couch Series. 

We will however, be filming some “Off The Couch” type clips where we’ll film performances, interviews, etc. with bands at different venues and in different settings. My wife and I have had some really cool heart-to-heart conversations with great bands like The Moth & The Flame, Fictionist, and Ivan & Alyosha. We hope that as bands perform locally, we’ll be able to catch some of those special moments to share with our audience.

We’ve also got some other big ideas in the pipeline, but as far as viewers should be concerned at this point, this is still The Couch Series, and we’ll still be where creativity comes to rest.

Do you have any guests already scheduled? Who are you most excited for? Who do you hope to have on the couch?

So, as mentioned earlier, we’ve already recorded three bands (to begin releasing videos in January), each of which has brought a really cool flavor to the couch. We caught a new upcoming band called 4th East Flood, and they legitimately showcase some of the greatest jazz instrumentation and vocals we’ve ever heard. Like seriously, we’re stoked to release that session.

We’ve also got a session from a band out of Salt Lake called Cinders. Feel good folk music that’s reminiscent of The Head And The Heart on the happy days of their lives. We’re really excited to see where they go. Grizzly Goat also came and performed a couple of tunes, and for anyone who hasn’t heard them, go and listen. They are some of the most genuine, loving, amazing folks we’ve met, and it shows in their music. It was a touching performance to say the least.

Additionally, we’ve booked guests through January, and are beginning to book into February, so we’ve got a decent start before the series is re-released. We’ll be releasing a video every week indefinitely. To answer your question of who we hope to have on the couch, our answer’s pretty broad. We hope to have any musician who puts their heart into their music. 

The vision of The Couch Series, shared by Eden, Nicolle, my wife, and myself, is to have a sort of snapshot in time of the phenomenal musicians that come through Provo. There’s a high turnover of folks as people enter and graduate the colleges in the area, and we’re really trying to build a sort of database of performances from all of these musicians as they come and go. Some go on to be huge influences in the music industry, others are just flash-in-the-pan bands that were only around for a year or two. Either way, these bands and artists are passionate about what they do and we hope that in some small way we can capture that passion and give them an opportunity to be heard.

Eventually my wife and I will probably leave Provo, and we’ll then pass the baton to another generation of The Couch Series. We hope this series will be an intricate part of Provo that will last through the generations. People come and go in this town, but the music will never die.

When can we expect the first episode to be released? Will it be on the same channel as the original Couch Series?

Josh will begin the editing process in January, and we plan to release our first episode mid to late January. We’ll include an interview with Eden, (one of the founders of The Couch Series), talking with her about her experiences as she and Nicolle ran the series. We’ll also release one of the performances from the bands listed earlier.

This will be on the same channel, same social media pages, same website address, same email (thecouchseries@gmail.com), all that jazz. We really are just the second generation of The Couch Series. You’ll see a revamp on the channel and other pages, just as you would with any “season 2”, but it’s still distinctly The Couch Series. We’re stoked to be bringing this back, and it’ll be stronger than ever.

Make sure to check out The Couch Series on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and their official site.

[1] Wen, Eden. Facebook. July 5, 2015. [Accessed December 20, 2015. https://www.facebook.com/thecouchseries/?fref=ts]

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